Get to know the newest Titans!

In the midst of New York's Midsummer heat wave, Titan Theatre Company is already thinking about the Fall (and not just for the obvious, temperature related reasons).  

Titan's greatly anticipated 2015/16 season threatens to be our most exciting year yet -- featuring new directors, a ground breaking reading series, and captivating and compelling playwrights .

But perhaps the most exciting thing about Titan's 2015/16 season is remarkable new artists joining the Titan team to make all these projects come to life!

Each season, Titan brings in 5 to 8 of NYC's brightest young talents to join the company through Titan's Young Company.  The Young Company helps these up-and-coming artists gain valuable experience, develop relationships and networking experience, and find an artistic home in the world's most competitive market while spending a season with one of New York's hottest young companies.

We asked the new Titans a few questions to get to know who we'll be sharing "the boards" with this year!

 MAGGIE WETZEL

MAGGIE WETZEL

MAGGIE WETZEL - Acting

Where are you from/where is your home town? I was born in Louisville, KY but it was too big of a city for my parents (if you've ever been to Louisville, you will know why this is funny) so they moved across the Ohio river to an old farm house in Southern Indiana. 

What was the first play you were ever in?I went to a Presbyterian preschool and got to play Mary in the Nativity scene for our Christmas Pageant. My boyfriend at the time, Evan, was my Jesus. We had an African American baby doll for Jesus. My preschool rocked.

What is the most recent play you have been in?  I had the honor of being an understudy for the roles of Cassio, Gratiano and The Messenger in Titan's all female cast of Othello.

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza?  Ha, I love this question. I'm vegan, so for me, it would be every vegetable imaginable, some super chunky tomato sauce and lots and lots of vegan cheese. Ugh, great. Now I'm drooling.

Where have you gone to school/trained?  I attended a public high school with an incredible arts programs. That's what sparked the performing fire in me. After that I attended Webster Conservatory for my B.F.A. in musical theatre and moved to NYC shortly after that. In the city, I've trained with various voice teachers, dance at Steps on Broadway, and improv training at UCB. I also take classes with Lenny. He knows how to get that super actor out of you. It's amazing.

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play?  Oof, so many. The Tempest has a very special place in my heart due to an amazing production that I saw at Actor's Theatre Louisville. But I also love Hamlet. It's so damn depressing.

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch?  Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Gilmore Girls. The list goes on and on. There's also this series on Netflix about an animal shelter in upstate New York. It's dangerous for me to watch, because it makes me want to adopt a thousand dogs, but I love it.

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company in the capacity in a Young Company Member?  Titan reignited my love for performing. The work they do is so invigorating (as a performer and audience member.) It is innovative as heck, and gosh darn exciting. I love that they push boundaries and always strive to find a new creative nugget with shows that have been done and exhausted time and time again. They always find a way to bring something new to the table. It is such a joy to be joining this company. 

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" surveyI got Lady Macbeth (????????) Not too sure about that one.

 BRANDON GRANTZ

BRANDON GRANTZ

BRANDON GRANTZ - Acting

Where are you from? I am from Dearborn Heights, Michigan.  A small suburb of Detroit.

What was the first play you were ever in?The WIZ! Emerald City Patron and Spot Light Operator.

What is the most recent play you have been in? “An Enemy of the People” the Arthur Miller Version in the role of Peter Stockmann. Coming up in September I will be in the play “Foursome” by Norm Foster.

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza?All the meats (except ham) and banana peppers.

Where have you gone to school/trained?  BS in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University and MFA from Wayne State University!

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play?  Titus Andronicus is my favorite Shakespeare.  So many other classics to choose from that I cant narrow it down.

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch? Binge-Watch is what I do.  Currently watching “Sons of Anarchy”

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company as a member of the Young Company? Titan is a theatre that lives on making good theatre.  It sounds funny, but so many theatres appeal to the masses to get by.  Titan makes bold choices and runs with it.  I love that about Titan.  You guys are very creative and take classics to a whole new level.

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" survey:I  got MACBETH!  Not sure if thats good or bad lol!

 ANNIE KERIS

ANNIE KERIS

ANNIE KERIS - Acting

Where are you from? I grew up in Anderson, Indiana.  I then went to the Boston area for undergrad (and called the area home for a couple of years after that).  Then I moved to Detroit for grad school.

What was the first play you were ever in? I think I may have carried a cheese sandwich across the stage in an elementary school play I vaguely recall being about Mozart (though as to how said sandwich and classical composer were dramatically related, I am unsure).  Regardless, it was probably my best work to date.

My first play was actually La fuga de Acapulco - a 25 minute Spanish language farce at the Universidad de Córdoba.

What is the most recent play you have been in?I'm currently in 3 shows in rep at at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival: The Rivals, Henry IV (parts 1&2 abridged and combined), and Midsummer. 

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza?  Um..feta, herbs, and spices  - along with any number of other delicious things (such as olive oil in lieu of tomato sauce, perhaps?)...  Then again, the classics aren't to be cast aside so lightly...  Can there be multiple pizzas?   Aaaand now I want pizza.

Where have you gone to school/trained? BA in Spanish from Wellesley College, spending 1 year at the Universidad de Córdoba in Spain.  Grad: MFA in Acting from the Hilberry Theatre at Wayne State University, with a month spent at the Moscow Art Theatre School.

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play?  I'm terrible at picking a favorite - I seriously still have way too much to learn/explore before I could responsibly choose just one (...spoken like a true commitment-phobe...).

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch: I have what some may call an unhealthy relationship with 30 Rock, but I regret nothing and refuse to let you shame me for it.

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company in the capacity in a Young Company Member? I would be an idiot not to leap at the chance to somehow be a part of an ensemble-driven group of insanely skilled and committed people who consistently do bold, uncompromisingly good work.  It's kind of a no-brainer.  What's more, it's an absolute luxury to be moving to New York with an artistic home of sorts ready and waiting at all, much less one that is doing such exciting stuff on a regular basis.  I really couldn't be more thrilled to be joining the ranks.  Plus, ya'll really know how to pick a name to be worn with pride.  TITAN?  I mean, come on.

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" survey:Beatrice, apparently.  I shall take it and wear it with the feistiest of pride.

 IAN O'BOYLE

IAN O'BOYLE

IAN O'BOYLE- Acting

Where are you from?Floral Park, NY

What was the first play you were ever in?The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

What is the most recent play you have been in?  The Drowsy Chaperone

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza? Pepperoni

Where have you gone to school/trained? Floral Park Memorial High School/Titan Academy

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play? Julius Caesar

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch? Breaking Bad

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company as a member of the Young Company?  I am extremely excited! I absolutely love Titan and what it offers to aspiring actors and I am honored to be apart of it!

 KRIS MURPHY

KRIS MURPHY

KRIS MURPHY -   Acting and Stage Management

Where are you from?  My hometown is Brooklyn, but I now hail from the great borough of Queens.

What was the first play you were ever in?  The first play I've ever been in was when I was 10 yrs old, I landed the title role in Annie Jr.

What is the most recent play you've been in?  The most recent play I performed in was for a SING! competition in my school, which was student written/directed, "Rules to Becoming a Legend".

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza? My go to pizza topping is- of course- bacon!

Where have you gone to school/trained?  I'm going to begin my freshman year of college at CUNY Hunter with a theatre major, I've also trained with the Secret Theatre academy and Titan's school for acting and musical theatre as well as various summer camps and school activities.

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play?  I can't quite say which Shakespeare play is my favorite, but I'm in the middle of reading Twelfth Night which so far has been a blast!

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch?  I binge watch a LOT of shows but I'm still on Friends and the Powerpuff girls (got to love the classics!) but I'm not forgetting Orange is the New Black!

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company as a member of the Young Company?  I'm SO excited to be joining Titans Young Company because its such a wonderful opportunity for a young actor like me who's still trying to learn the ropes of the industry, its the perfect starting point, and the Titan company is such a welcoming family I'm sure to learn a lot and have the most fun here!

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" survey:-Out, damned spot, out I say!- I got Lady Macbeth, haha!

 DYAN WITTROCK

DYAN WITTROCK

DYLAN WITTROCK- Acting

Where are you from? Tough question. I was born in Pittsfield, MA. My parents lived in Lenox and my Dad was an actor at Shakespeare & Co. Then I lived in Evanston, IL until I was 7, after which we moved to Glendale, CA, which is close to Los Angeles. So I'm kind of from all over, but L.A. is really my home base. 

What was the first play you were ever in? Love's Labour's Lost. I was five years old and played one of the students. My only line was "Hercules, Master!" I've been hooked ever since. 

What is the most recent play you have been in?  A collection of Tennesee Williams' short plays produced by Animus Theater Company and directed by Mathew Lillard. It was an awesome production. I played a small part in a one act called The Long Goodbye. The character's name was Bill, and he was a really terrible guy. It was fun. 

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza?  Sausage, pepperoni, olives and green bell peppers. 

Where have you gone to school/trained?  I went to the L.A. County High School for the Arts in L.A. Now called Arts High. After high school I thought about trying something new and I wound up studying Spanish at the University of San Francisco. I'm proud to say that this fall I will be studying with Atlantic acting school in the Evening Conservatory Program. 

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play? A Midsummer Night's Dream

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch? That 70s Show. Can't get enough of it. It reminds me of home. 

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company as a member of the Young Company? I'm very excited to be a Young Company Member with Titan mainly because they're doing awesome work. And it's all about the work. We're young, fierce, hungry, and dedicated to making great theater. That just makes for all around awesomeness!

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" survey:         I got Lucentio! Figures...

SOPHIA WATT - Directing and Artistic Associate

 SOPHIA WATT

SOPHIA WATT

Where are you from? Seattle

What was the first play you were ever in? The story of saint Odilia

What is the most recent play you have been in? Last show acted in King Lear.  Last show directed Dracula

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza?  Buffalo chicken pizza  or minimal cheese, basil, onions, tomatoes and anchovies 

Where have you gone to school/trained? The Hartt school 

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play?  I am cheating as I can't pick one. I love the Henry the Sixth trilogy into Richard III ............and Richard II. I love the histories. 

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch? I have a dark unhealthy love for the real housewives franchise 

Why are you excited to be joining Titan Theatre Company as a Young Company Member and Artistic Associate? I am excited to work with such fantastic artists and to be a part of such a creative and determined team. 

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" survey:        Beatrice 

 BAILEY SEEKER

BAILEY SEEKER

BAILEY SEEKER - Newest member of Titan's RESIDENT ACTING COMPANY

Where are you from/where is your home town?  I was born in Southern California, but I grew up just outside of Seattle, Washington.

What was the first play you were ever in?  When I was four years old I played a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz.  I was a soldier munchkin, which basically means I was the star of the show... obviously.

What is the most recent play you have been in?I am currently playing Rona in a production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

If you got to pick any toppings, what would you order on your pizza?  Mushrooms, prosciutto, goat cheese, and olives.  No question.

Where have you gone to school/trained?  I went to NYU Tisch and while I was there I studied at CAP21 and Stonestreet Studios.

What is your favorite Shakespeare/Classical play?  Call me cliche, but I would have to say Romeo and Juliet.  When I was five I went as Juliet for Halloween, so I guess you could say that I was bitten by the Shakespeare bug quite early in life.  I am also a sucker for Troilus and Cressida.

What tv show are you most likely to binge-watch?   Of the shows I have binged watched recently I would have to say BBC's Sherlock.  That show is mind blowingly good.

Why are you excited to become a member of Titan's Resident Acting Company?  I come from a primarily musical theatre background but I have always loved Shakespeare!  Getting the chance to work on plays that I have been reading (and LOVING) for as long as I can remember is an absolutely dream.  I mean, it's Shakespeare for crying out loud!  Who wouldn't want to speak his words?  Also, Titan has become such a family to me over the last year and I am so excited to continue growing and spending time with such an incredible group of people.

Last but not least: Please take this "what shakespeare character are you" survey:        Beatrice!

Check back in for more on what these fierce and fantastic artists are going to be up to this year.

Titan's 2015/16 Young Company seems to consist of 2 Lady M's, 1 Macbeth, 1 Lucentio, and 3 Beatrice's!!! We could do one heck of a Much Ado About Mabeth's Shrew!

And if you're interested in finding out "What Shakespeare Character You Are" you can at: http://www.americanshakespearecenter.com/quiz/

SPECIAL EVENT! An expert's eye into the world of Othello THIS THURSDAY!

In case you were undecided about which of the last four Othello performances to attend....

A very special presentation and discussion with Queens College Professor of English, Dr. Miles Parks Grier, will be following Thursday's performance.

And he very well may be the perfect scholar to discuss Titan's take on Othello!

Miles Parker Grier
Miles Parker Grier

Uniquely qualified to lead a fascinating discussion on race and gender in Shakespeare --

Dr. Miles Parker Grier teaches classes at Queens College within and across: Shakespeare Studies, Early American Studies, African-American Studies.

His is also currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Reading Black Characters: Atlantic Encounters with Othello 1604-1855.

Of his manuscript, Reading Black Characters, Parker Grier states: " I follow Shakespeare’s blackamoor across two and a half centuries of print and stage iterations, showing the play’s implication in a British-American project of producing legible gendered and racialized characters out of the strangers in a far-flung Atlantic economy."

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Delving further into Reading Black Characters: Atlantic Encounters with Othello 1604-1855, Parker Grier explores the influence of professional writers such as Aphra Behn and Herman Melville who rewrite Shakespeare’s plot–and the relationship between white writers and enslaved bodies–in attempts to overcome disadvantages of gender and postcolonial positioning.

Also according to the Queens Faculty page, he has begun work on:

"a second project that uses Joni Mitchell’s insistence that she is a black man trapped in a white woman’s body to consider the (changed and unchanged) relationship to authority and prestige white artists achieved in the wake of the black protests of the 1960s."

All in all, pretty much the perfect person to end an evening of Titan's All-Female Othello with!

THIS THURDAY, MAY 30th

Additional Publications by Dr. Miles Parker Grier

“Inkface: Britons and the Slave Stigma in Antiquity and the Renaissance,” forthcoming.

“’The Base Indian’ Attends Othello: The Theatre of Racial Value in Late Colonial Virginia.” Forthcoming.

“Said the Hooker to the Thief: ‘Some Kind of Way Out’ of Rockism,” in The Journal of Popular Music Studies, March 2013

“The Only Black Man at the Party: Joni Mitchell Enters the Rock Canon,” in Genders, Fall 2012

“Having Their Cake… and Outlawing It, Too: How the War on Terror Expands Racial Profiling by Pretending to Erase It,” in Politics and Culture, February 2006

YOU FIGHT LIKE A GIRL

Women are often spoken of as the “weaker sex.” Titan’s production of Othello would beg to differ.

Othello’s Fight Director and Resident Company Member, Johnathan Hicks, weighs in about what it’s like to stage violence for a cast of fighting females in one of Shakespeare’s most physically brutal tragedies.

“Who wants to see a bunch of chicks fight?" Fight Director, Johnathan Hicks, asks.

"EVERYBODY." he answers himself.  "I don’t need to get on a soapbox to let people know that women can get a negative rap for being the “weaker sex” – both in the world of stage combat and the world in general.  But by now, this idea should be obvious bull honky.  One of the best Fight Directors I know is a woman.” 

Bull honky, indeed.

 Jonathan Hicks (Right) in rehearsal with Kate Gunter (Left).  

Jonathan Hicks (Right) in rehearsal with Kate Gunter (Left).  

In fact, in Titan's production of Othello, when given the choice between a simulated slap and an actual slap that would make contact with her face– Cassio (Abbey Siegworth) and Othello (Leah Dutchin) immediately decided that, due to the proximity of the Queen's Studio Theater space and the importance of the moment in the two character's relationship, Siegworth would simply take Dutchin’s slap to the face.  

Maybe not too terrible, if you have to do it just once but, unlike film, in the world of theatre repetition is key.   A stage combat move like this requires much repetition and precision to get the physical contact to a “safe" and repeatable place in the adrenalin of performance.  So Dutchin and Siegworth have to deliver and receive the slap over and over again in rehearsal and fight calls (fight calls are similar to a dance warm up, and they happen each time before the show is run), to ensure the actors are consistently making eye contact at the same moment (this is the unspoken, split-second, go-ahead to proceed with the violence), that Dutchin is striking Siegworth's cheek in the right spot (too high you make contact with cheek bone or eye socket- too low, the jaw takes the impact - both are potentially dangerous and more painful for both actors), making sure Dutchin's hand at the optimal level of tension and Siegworth's face is at the optimal angle and, lastly, that neither actor flinches or anticipates the strike - which, I needn't tell you, takes a greatly developed control of one's innate reflexes.

Yup. We're dealing with some pretty resilient and  bad ass ladies here.  So much so that, when Siegworth wasn’t present at rehearsal one day and Maggie Wetzel, Cassio’s understudy stepped in, she was given the option to “mark” the combat as the understudy.  Instead, Wetzel took it on the cheek as well, without batting an eye.

If you really want to talk strong characters in Shakespeare and Othello, look no further than Emelia and Desdemona. However, the wonderful and rare thing about this particular production is that we get to see the strong male characters embodied by women as well.
— Jonathan Hicks

When asked if he changed any of the combat choreography when he learned he would be working with all women, Hicks said No.  “There really hasn’t been much thought about what I need to change in order for women to be able to combat instead of men.

Hicks approaches the combat from the point of view of story - not gender.

This goes hand in hand with what Lenny Banovez, the Director of Othello and Titan's founder and Artistic Director said when asked about the "concept" of an All-Female Othello.

"We aren't doing an All-Female Othello.  We're doing Othello.  With a female cast." - 

When it comes to physical fighting in real life, there are some things that work in women's advantage as fighters:

  • The male center of gravity is in the shoulders. The female center of gravity is in their hips - which is closer to the ground.  Making them harder to knock over.
  • Women have a higher pain tolerance
  • Females, on average, have a larger Limbic system than males. This area of the brain is referred to as “the reptilian brain” because it houses instincts.  This area, which is home to the mothering instinct and innate primitive fighting instincts, is larger in women than men.  It has been observed that, when threatened, women actually display a primitive killer instinct far greater than the male. 

Just think Momma Bear.

combat2
combat2

These things also aid them as stage fighters.  Because of these reasons, as well as artistic choices, Hicks and Banovez have decided to stick to a specific “fight vocabulary” for this Othello

“Our Othello is contemporary world.  What is cool about this is that it allows for more options as far as styles of violence.   This modern setting gives us a broader choice from any fighting style and any weapon - past or present.

So everyone should just have guns then right?  Ha!

We have used guns in Titan productions in the past and they immediately take the violence into the present [which is cool].  But guns are a tricky business for the theater. They are expensive. They must either be functional or be accompanied with some other technical element. They lead to questions: Does everyone have a gun? If not, who has one and why? 

For Othello, we have decided to use a combination of daggers and unarmed combat. Since the idea of the human as a martial instrument has been around since Cain met Abel, and since here at Titan we like to keep it simple and raw, it works for us. There is an inherent brutality to the play. Therefore, the up close and personal quality of these weapons help to highlight the gruesome, intimate nature of the violence in the world of Othello”

A world you are invited into at The Queen's Theatre this month.

OTHELLO

Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.

Good Madam, you shall more command with years

Than with your weapons. - Act 1, Scene ii

combat3

First Rehearsal

The first day of TITAN Theatre Company's Othello is here!  

Everyone is eager to get into rehearsals and sink our collective teeth into this delicious, heartbreaking, mind-bending tragedy.  But, don't be fooled, the work has long since begun.  The cast and creative team have been preparing for this day for quite awhile.  And everyone readies themselves a little differently.  So we thought we'd get this blog rolling by asking some members of this fiercely female cast: How in the ot-hell-o do you get ready to tackle a play like Othello?

or - in other words

"How do you memorize all those lines!?!" - asked someone at every talkback ever.

Check out what the Bard's broads have to say in response.

othellod.jpg

"If I have to memorize quickly, I record the lines and listen while strolling or jogging.  In this instance...

...I wound up across from Shakespeare's Globe."

Deanna Gibson - Emilia

"I like to memorize lines by recording my cues into my phone with little pauses where my lines are and then play the tape back and say my lines to it. I also like to do an activity, like cleaning the dishes or folding the laundry, because if you move while you memorize something you work both the left and right sides of your brain and the material sticks better."  

Erica Knight - Lodovico

"I memorize the lines in many different ways, but my one top method is to write the lines over and over again. I have notebooks filled with lines from every show I have been in."

Laura Frye - Iago  

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"In the warmth of sunny Austin, Texas, I've been reading the text, re-reading the text, looking up the roots of words, reading the text again, and scanning. Lots of focus on departures from the iambic pentameter and going into imagination-land for the potential reasoning for it. I've also been eating a lot of tacos while doing this, as seen in the picture. Ah my two loves: Shakespeare and breakfast tacos. :)"   Sierra Thothero - Desdemona u/s

othelloleah.jpg

"When I memorize a script, I start at the beginning. I memorize and say out loud little chunks of text at a time, adding another line, paragraph, scene until I know it all. I like to spend this time in quieter places (talking to oneself in public can be a bit distracting to others I've found) like my home or a patch of grass at a park."

Leah Dutchin - Othello

"In terms of preparation for three characters, 'No Fear Shakespeare' and multicolor post-its are definitely my friends."  Molly Densmore - Montano

Osmosis. - Alyssa VanGorder- Gratiano 

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"Snow day! I've got Thai food on the way, I've got my complete works and my Othello script in hand, I've got coffee and the OED!"  - Kate Gunther – Bianca

OthelloTrask
OthelloTrask

"A good Folio.  A good Rye.  And a good study partner."

- Emily Trask - Desdemona

"I'm a huge nerd. I gather every book, read every article, look up every word. With our current cutting, I'm looking for information about what version of Cassio will most help propel my fellow actors, and therefore  the play, forward. They have harder journeys than mine; I'm seeking ways to make their jobs (as characters) harder, and their jobs (as actors) easier."

othelloabb.jpg

Abbey Siegworth – Cassio

"